How words are built: combining forms, prefixes, and suffixes

Many words are built using a combination of linguistic elements, such as prefixes, suffixes, and combining forms. Whereas prefixes and suffixes adjust the sense of a word or its word class, combining forms differ by contributing to the particular meaning of that word.

Here is a list of combining forms, prefixes, and suffixes together with their meanings and examples.

Combining Form

Meaning

Example(s)

adeno-

relating to a gland or glands

adenocarcinoma

-aemia

see -emia

 

agro-, agri-

of or involving agriculture

agro-industry, agribusiness

-algia

of or involving pain

neuralgia, nostalgia

allo-

other; different

allotrope, allophone

amphi-

both; around

amphibian, amphitheatre

ana-, an-

up; back; again

anabatic, anachronism, Anabaptism

-androus

having male parts

monandrous

angio-

of blood or seed vessels

angiography, angiosperm

ante-

before; in front

antediluvian, anterior

antho-, -anth

of or relating to flowers

anthophilous, perianth

anthropho-, -anthropic

of humans

anthropology, philanthropic

apo-

away from; separate

apocrypha, apocarpous

aqua-

of or relating to water

aquaculture, aquamarine

arch-

chief; principal

archbishop, arch-fiend

archaeo-, archeo-

ancient; prehistoric

archaeology

arterio-

of or relating to the arteries

arteriosclerosis

arthro-, arthr-

of or relating to joints

arthroscope, arthritis

astro-

of stars or space

astronomy, astrophysics

audio-, audi-

of or relating to hearing or sound

audiovisual, audible

auto-, aut-

self; spontaneous

autonomous, automatic

baro-, bar-, -baric

of or relating to pressure

barometer, hyperbaric

bathy-, batho-

of or relating to depth

bathyscaphe

bi-

two; twice; every two; lasting two

biathlon, biannual, bicentennial, biennium

biblio-

of or relating to books

bibliophile, bibliography

bio-

of or relating to life

biology, biohazard

-biosis, -biotic

denoting or relating to a mode of life

symbiosis, antibiotic

brachy-, -brach

short

brachycephalic, amphibrach

broncho-, bronch-

of or relating to air passages

bronchial, bronchopneumonia


caco-, cac-, kak-

bad or worst

cacophony, kakistocracy

calli-, cal-

good, beautiful

callipygian, callisthenics

carcino-

of or relating to cancer

carcinogenic

cardio-, cardi-, -cardia

of or relating to the heart

cardiogram, tachycardia

cata-, cat-, kata-

down(ward); wrongly or badly; completely; against

catadromous, katabatic, catachresis, cataclysm, catapult


-cele, -coele

swelling; hernia

meningocele

centi-

one hundredth; one hundred

centilitre, centipede

-cephalic, -cephalous, cephalo-

of or relating to the head; -headed

brachycephalic, cephalometry, hydrocephalous

cerato-, cerat-

see kerato-

 

cerebro-, cerebr-

of or relating to the brain

cerebrospinal

cheiro-

see chiro-

 

chemi-, chemico-, chemo-

of or relating to drugs or chemicals

chemotherapy


chiro-, cheiro-

of the hand or hands

chiropody, chiromancy

chlor-, chloro-

green, of or relating to chlorine

chloracne, chloroquine

chromato-, chromat-, chromo-

color; of colors

chromatic, chromosome

chrono-, chron-

of or relating to time

chronometer, chronic

chrys-, chryso-

of or relating to gold

chrysanthemum

-cide, -cidal

of killing or a killer

regicide, homicide, suicidal

cine-

of or relating to film

cinematic

circum-

around; about

circumpolar, circumlocution

clado-, clad-

of or relating to a branch or branching

cladogram, cladistics

clin-, -clinal, -cline, -clinic

of, denoting, or relating to a slope

clinometer, geosyncline

-coele

see -cele

 

contra-

against or opposite; below or beyond

contraband, contrabass

copro-

of or relating to dung or feces

coprophagous, coprophilia

cortico-, cortic-

of or relating to a cortex

corticosteroid

cosmo-, cosm-

of or relating to the world or universe

cosmography

-cracy

denoting a form of government or rule

autocracy, democracy

cranio-, crani-

of or relating to the skull

craniotomy

-crat

denoting a member or supporter of a form of government or rule

plutocrat, technocrat

-cratic

of or relating to a form of government or rule

bureaucratic, theocratic

cryo-

of or involving cold

cryosurgery, cryogenics

crypto-, crypt-

concealed; secret

cryptogram, crypto-fascist

cupr-, cupro-

of or relating to copper

cupro-nickel

cyano-, cyan-

of or relating to blue or dark blue

cyanosis

cyber-

of or relating to electronic communications

cyberspace, cybernaut

cyno-

of or relating to dogs

cynodont

cysto-, cyst-

of or relating to the bladder

cystotomy

-cyte, cyt-

denoting a mature cell

lymphocyte

cyto-

of a cell or cells

cytology, cytoplasm

deca-, dec-

ten

decahedron, Decalogue

deci-

tenth

decilitre

demi-

half; inferior or partial

demitasse, demigod

dendro-, dendron

denoting or relating to a tree or trees

dendrology, rhododendron

dermato, dermat-

of or relating to the skin

dermatitis

dextro-

on or to the right

dextrorotatory

di-

twice; two

dichromatic, dioxide

dia-, di-

through or across; apart

diameter, diakinesis

dorsi-, dorso-

of, to, or on the back

dorsiventral

-drome

denoting a place for running or racing; running or proceeding a certain way

hippodrome, palindrome

dys-

bad; difficult

dyspepsia, dyslexia, dysfunctional

eco-

relating to ecology

ecosystem, ecoterrorism

ecto-

outer; external

ectoderm, ectoplasm

-ectomy

denoting a removal of a part

appendectomy; compare -otomy


-emia, -hemia, -aemia, -haemia

denoting presence of a substance in the blood

septicaemia, leukaemia

encephalo-, encephal-

of or relating to the brain

encephalopathy

endo-, end-

internal; within

endoderm, endogenous

entero-, enter-

of or relating to the intestine

enterovirus, enteritis

epi-, ep-

upon; above; in addition

epitaph, epicotyl, epiphenomenon

erythro-, erythr-

red

erythrocyte, erythromycin

ethno-

of or relating to a people or nation

ethnocentric, ethnology

eu-

good; well; easily

eupeptic, euphemism, euphony

eury-

denoting a wide variety or range

eurytopic

exo-

outside

exobiology, exoskeleton, exoteric

-facient

producing a specified action or state

abortifacient

-faction

denoting a specified action or state

liquefaction, satisfaction

-ferous, -iferous

having, bearing or containing

pestiferous, Carboniferous

ferro-, ferr-

containing iron

ferroconcrete, ferromagnetic

-fic, -fication

making

terrific, simplification

fluvio-

of or relating to a river or rivers

fluvioglacial

-fuge

expelling or dispelling

vermifuge, centrifuge

-fy

make

satisfy, mollify

Gallo-

French

Gallo-German

-gamous, -gamy

of or relating to marriage or reproduction

exogamous, heterogamy

gastr-, gastro-

of or relating to the stomach

gastrectomy, gastroenteritis

-gate

denoting an actual or alleged scandal (suggestive of "Watergate")

Irangate, Travelgate

-gen

denoting a substance producing or produced

allergen, cultigen

-genic

producing, produced, or suited to

carcinogenic, iatrogenic, photogenic

-genous

producing; inducing; originating in

erogenous, endogenous

-geny

denoting a mode of production

orogeny, phylogeny

geo-, ge-

of or relating to the earth

geochemistry, geomorphic

geront-, geronto-, gero-, ger-

of or relating to old age

gerontocracy, geriatrics

glyco-, glyc-

of, relating to, or producing sugar

glycogenesis, glycoside

-gon

having a certain number of angles

hexagon, pentagon

-gony

denoting a kind of origin or reproduction

cosmogony

-gram

denoting something written or recorded

cryptogram, telegram

-graph

denoting something written or drawn; denoting a recording instrument

autograph, seismograph

-grapher

denoting a person concerned with a subject

geographer

-graphic

of a subject or study

demographic, oceanographic

-graphy

denoting a science or technique, a style, or a kind of writing

geography, radiography, calligraphy, hagiography

gymno-, gymn-

naked

gymnosperm, gymnasium

gynaeco-

of or relating to women

gynaecology

-gynous, -gyne

having female organs

epigynous

gyro-

of or relating to rotation

gyroscope, gyrostabilizer

haemato-, haemo-

see hemo-

 

-haemia

see -emia

 

hagio-, hagi-

of or relating to saints or saintliness

hagiography

halo-, hal-

of or relating to salinity or halogens

halophile

helio-

of or relating to the sun

heliocentric, heliometer


hemato-, haemato-, hemo-

of or relating to blood

haematoma

hemi-

half

hemisphere, hemistich

-hemia

see -emia

 


hemo-

see hemato-

 

hepato-, hepat-

of or relating to the liver

hepatomegaly, hepatitis

hepta-

seven

heptagon, heptathlon

hetero-, heter-

different; diverse

heterosexual, heterogeneous

hexa-, hex-

six

hexagon, hexagram

hiero-, hier-

sacred; holy

hierophant, hieroglyphic

histo-, hist-

of or relating to organic tissue

histochemistry, histocompatibility

holo-, hol-

whole; complete

holocaust, holistic

homo-, hom-

same; relating to homosexual love

homogeneous, homoerotic

homeo-

similar

homeopathy

hydr-, hydro-

of or relating to water; of accumulation of fluid

hydraulic, hydroelectric, hydrocephalus

hyper-

over or beyond; exceeding; excessively

hyperborean, hypersonic, hyperactive

hypno-, hypn-

relating to sleep or hypnosis

hypnagogic, hypnotherapy

hypo-, hyp-

below or lower

hypodermic, hypoglycaemia, hypaesthesia

iatro-, -iatry, -iatric

of or relating to doctors or medical treatment

iatrogenic, psychiatry

ichthyo-, ichthy-

of or relating to fish

ichthyosaur

icono-, icon-

of or relating to images or icons

iconology, iconoclast

ideo-

of or relating to an idea or form

ideology, ideograph

idio-

distinct; private; personal

idiotype, idiopathic

infra-

below or under

infraorder, infrastructure

inter-

between or among; mutually

intercollegiate, interdependent

intra-

on the inside or within

intrados, intramural

intro-

into or inwards

introversion, intromission

-ism

denoting an action, result, or quality; denoting a system or principle; denoting a peculiarity in language; denoting a condition

baptism, exorcism, barbarism, feminism, Americanism, alcoholism

iso-

equal

isobar, isosceles, isomer

kak-

see caco-

 


kerato-, kerat-, cerato-, cerat-

of or relating to horny tissue or the cornea

keratin, keratotomy

kilo-

one thousand

kilometre

kineto-, kinet-, -kinesis

of or relating to movement

kinetoscope, kinetics, hyperkinesis

labio-

of or relating to the lips

labiodental

lacto-, lact-

of or relating to milk, lactic acid, or lactose

lacto-vegetarian, lactobacillus

-later

denoting a worshiper

idolater

-latry

denoting a kind of worship

idolatry, Mariolatry

lepto-, lept-

small; narrow

leptocephalic

leuko-, leuk-, leuco-

white

leukaemia, leukocyte

ligni, ligno-, lign-

of or relating to wood

lignify, lignocellulose

lipo-, lip-

relating to fat or lipids

liposuction, lipoprotein

litho-, lith-, -lith, -lithic, -lite

denoting or relating to a stone, a kidney stone, or a mineral

lithograph, batholith, lithotomy, sodalite

-log, -logue

denoting a discourse or compilation

dialogue, catalogue, monologue

-logist, -loger

denoting a person skilled or involved in a branch of study or art

biologist, astrologer

logo-

of or relating to words

logomachy

-logue, -log

denoting discourse or compilation of a type

catalog, dialogue


-logy, -ology, -logical, -logic

denoting or relating to a subject of study or type of speech or language

psychology, eulogy, trilogy, philological


-lysis, lyso-, lys-

denoting disintegration or decomposition

hydrolysis, haemolysis, autolysis

-lytic, -lyte

corresponding to nouns ending in -lysis

hydrolytic

macro-, macr-

long; large

macroevolution, macromolecule, macroeconomics

mal-

unpleasantly; badly; improperly; not

malodorous, malfunction, malpractice, maladroit

-mancy, -mantic

denoting or relating to divination by a specified means

geomancy, necromantic

mega-

very large; by a factor of one million

megalith, megadeath

megalo-, megal-

abnormally large or great

megaloblast, megalopolis

-meister

skilled or prominent in a specified activity

schlockmeister, gagmeister

melano-, melan-

black or dark

melanoma, melanism

mero-

partly; partial

meronym

-merous

having a specified number of (biological) parts

pentamerous

meso-, mes-

middle; intermediate

meso-America, mesomorph

meta-, met-

denoting a change; denoting position behind, after, or beyond; denoting something of a higher or second order

metamorphosis, metacarpus, metalanguage

-meter, -metric, -metrical

measuring; having a particular measure

thermometer, hexameter

-metry

denoting procedures and systems involving measurement

calorimetry, geometry

micro-, micr-

small; reduced; one millionth

micromini, microprocessor, microfarad

milli-

a thousand (chiefly denoting a factor of one thousandth)

milligram, millipede

mis-

wrongly; badly; unsuitably

misapply, mismanage, misname

-monger

dealer or trader; promoter of some activity or feeling

fishmonger, warmonger

-morph, -morphic, -morphism, morpho-

having, denoting, or relating to a specified form or character

endomorph, mesomorphic, morphological

-mycin

in names of antibiotics derived from fungi

streptomycin

myco-

relating to fungi

mycology

myo-, my-

of or relating to muscles

myocardium, myalgia

nano-

very small; denoting a factor of 10⁻⁹

nanoplankton, nanosecond

narco-

of a state of insensibility; of narcotic drugs or drug traffic

narcolepsy, narcoterrorism

naso-

of or relating to the nose

nasogastric

necro-

relating to a corpse or death

necromancy, necrophilia

neo-

new; a new or revived form

neonate, neoconservative

neuro-, neur-

relating to nerves or the nervous system

neuroanatomy, neurohormone

-nomy

an area of knowledge or the laws governing it

astronomy, gastronomy

odonto-, -odon, -odont

relating to a tooth or teeth; having teeth of a particular type

odontology, odontophore, mastodon

-oid

denoting resemblance

asteroid, rhomboid, factoid

oleo-, ole-

relating to or containing oil

oleomargarine, oleaginous

oligo-, olig-

having or involving few

oligopoly, oligarchy

-ology

see -logy

 

-oma

denoting tumors or growths

carcinoma

onco-

of or relating to tumors or cancer

oncology

-ont, ont-

denoting or relating to an individual or cell of a specified type

schizont, ontology

onto-, ont-

of or relating to existence

ontology

-onym, -onymous, -onymic

denoting or relating to names

acronym, synonymous, patronymic

oo-

of or denoting an egg or ovum

oocyte

-opia

denoting a visual disorder

myopia, presbyopia

-opsy

denoting an examination

biopsy

ornitho-, ornith-

relating to or like a bird or birds

ornithology, ornithopter

oro-

of or relating to mountains

orogeny

ortho-, orth-

straight; correct

orthodontics, orthodox

osteo-, oste-

of or relating to the bones

osteoporosis, osteopathy

oto-, ot-

of or relating to the ears

otolaryngology, otoscope

ovi-, ovo-

of or relating to eggs or ova

oviparous

oxy-, ox-

denoting sharpness; having oxygen

oxymoron, oxyacetylene

paedo-

see pedo-

 

paleo-, palaeo-

older or ancient

Palaeolithic, palaeoclimatology

pan-

all-inclusive

pan-African, pansexual, pantheistic

panto-

all; universal

pantograph, pantomime

para-, par-

beside or adjacent to; analogous to

parathyroid, paramilitary

para-

protecting or warding off

parasol, parachute

-parous

bearing offspring or reproducing in a specified manner

multiparous, viviparous

-path

practitioner of curative treatment; sufferer from a disease

homeopath, psychopath

patho-

relating to disease

pathogenesis, pathology

-pathy

denoting feelings; denoting disorder; relating to curative treatment

sympathy, neuropathy, hydropathy

-pede, -pedal

denoting or relating to the feet

centipede, bipedal


pedo-, ped-, paedo-

of or relating to a child or children

paediatric, paedophile

pedo-

of or relating to soil or soil types

pedogenic

penta-

five; having five

pentagram, pentadactyl

per-

through or all over; completely; to destruction or ill effect

pervade, perfect, pervert

peri-

round or about; nearest

pericardium, perihelion

-petal

seeking or moving toward

centripetal

petro-, petr-

of or relating to rock; relating to petroleum

petrography, petrochemical

-phagous, -phage

feeding on a particular food

coprophagous, bacteriophage

-phagy

denoting eating of a particular food

anthropophagy

-phasia

denoting a type of speech disorder

aphasia

pheno-, phen-, -phane

derived from benzene; showing

phenobarbital, phenotype

philo-, phil-, -phile

denoting a liking for a specific thing

philosopher, philanthrope, bibliophile

-phil

having a chemical affinity

acidophil

-philia, -phily

denoting (esp. abnormal) fondness or inclination

paedophilia, spasmophilia

-phobe

having a fear or dislike of something

homophobe, xenophobe

-phobia

extreme or irrational fear or dislike

arachnophobia, photophobia

-phone

denoting a sound instrument; denoting a speaker of a specific language

saxophone, francophone

phono-, phon-, -phony

relating to sound

phonograph, phonics

-phore

denoting an agent or bearer

ionophore, semaphore

photo-, phot-

relating to light; relating to photography

photosensitive, photojournalism

phren-, -phrenia, -phrenic

of or relating to the mind

phrenology, schizophrenia

phyllo-, phyll-, -phyllous

of or relating to a leaf or leaves

phyllotaxis

phylo-

of or relating to a race, tribe, or species

phylogeny

physio-, phys-

relating to nature; relating to physiology

physiocrat, physiotherapy

-phyte

denoting a plant or plantlike organism

epiphyte

phyto-

of or relating to plants

phytogeography

pisci-, pisc-

of or relating to fish

pisciculture

-plasty, -plast, -plastic

molding, grafting, or formation

rhinoplasty

pleo-, pleio-, plio-

more

pleonasm, Pliocene

pneumato-

of or containing air; relating to the spirit

pneumatophore, pneumatology

pneumo-, pneum-

of or relating to the lungs or to the presence of air or gas

pneumogastric, pneumothorax

-pod, -pode, -podous, pod-

of or like a foot

tripod, podagra

poly-

many, much

polyandry, polychrome

pre-, prae-

before

precede, precocious, preadolescent

proto-, prot-

original; primitive; first or anterior

prototype, protozoan, protogalaxy

pseudo-, pseud-

purported or false; resembling or imitating

pseudoscience, pseudohallucination

psycho-

relating to the mind or psychology

psychometrics, psychobabble

ptero-, -pter

relating to or having wings

pterosaur, helicopter

pyro-, pyr-

of or relating to fire; denoting a mineral or compound formed or affected by heat or having a fiery color

pyromania, pyrophosphate

quasi-

apparently but not really; partly or almost

quasi-scientific, quasicrystalline

radio-, radi-

denoting radio waves or broadcasting; connected with radioactivity; belonging to the radius

radiogram, radiogenic, radio-carpal

retro-

denoting backward or reciprocal action; denoting location behind

retrogression, retrosternal

rhino-

of or relating to the nose

rhinoplastic

-rrhea, -rrhoea, rheo-

discharge, flow

diarrhoea, logorrhoea, rheostat

rhodo-, rhod-

roselike, rosy

rhodochrosite, rhododendron

sapro-, sapr-

relating to putrefaction or decay

saprogenic, saprophyte

sarco-, sarc-

of or relating to flesh

sarcoma, sarcophagus

schizo-, schiz-

divided or split; relating to schizophrenia

schizocarp, schizotype

sclero-, -scler-

hard, hardened, or hardening

scleroderma, arteriosclerosis

-sect, -section

of cutting or dividing

bisect, vivisection

semi-

half; twice; partly

semicircle, semi-annual, semi-conscious

sero-

relating to serum; involving a serous membrane

serotype, serositis

sesqui-

denoting one and a half

sesquicentenary

Sino-

Chinese, Chinese and …

Sino-Soviet, Sinologist

socio-

relating to society; relating to sociology

socio-economic, sociolinguistics

somato-

of or relating to the human body

somatotype

-some

denoting a part of the body or of a cell

chromosome

somn-

of or relating to sleep

somnolent, somniferous

sono-

of or relating to sound

sonogram

spiro-

spiral or in a spiral

spirochaete

spiro-

relating to breathing

spirometer

-stasis, -static

slowing down or stopping

haemostasis

-stat

denoting instruments, etc., maintaining a controlled state

rheostat, haemostat

steno-

narrow

stenography, stenosis

stereo-

of solid forms with three dimensions; of three-dimensional effect

stereography, stereophonic

strati-, strat-

of or relating to layers or strata

stratigraphy

sub- (suc-, suf-, etc.)

lower; somewhat; secondary; supporting

subalpine, subordinate, subconscious, sublet, subvention


super-, sur-

above or beyond; to a great degree; extra large; of a higher kind

superstructure, superabundant, supercontinent, superfamily

supra-

above; beyond

suprarenal, supranational

sur-

see super-

 

syn-, sym-, syl-

united; acting or considered together

synthesis, sympathy, syllogism

tacho-, tachy-

relating to speed; rapid

tachometer; tachycardia

tauto-

same

tautology

taxo-, taxi-, tax-

of or relating to grouping or arranging

taxonomy

tele-, tel-

of or at a distance; operating over a distance; relating to television; done over the telephone

telekinesis, telemeter, televangelist, telemarketing

tetra-

four, having four

tetragram

theo-, the-

relating or God or to deities

theocentric, theistic

thermo-, -therm, -thermy

relating to heat

thermodynamics

-tome

denoting an instrument for cutting; denoting a section or fragment

microtome, myotome

-tomy

cutting

episiotomy

topo-, top-

of or relating to places or forms

topography, topology

toxi-, toxico-, toxo-, -toxic

of or relating to poisons

toxicology

trans-

across or beyond; on or to the other side; through; going beyond

transcontinental, transalpine, transonic, transform, transcendent

-trix

denoting a woman (where a man would be denoted -tor)

executrix, dominatrix

-trophic

relating to nutrition; relating to maintenance or regulation

oligotrophic, gonadotrophic

-tropic, trop-

turning toward; affecting; maintaining or regulating

heliotropic, psychotropic

ultra-

beyond; extreme

ultramontane, ultraconservative

ur-

primitive, original, or earliest

urtext

urano-, uran-

relating to the heavens; relating to uranium

uranography, uraninite

-urgy, -urge

of work; one who works

thaumaturgy, demiurge

-uria

designating that a substance is present in the urine, esp. in excess

phenylketonuria

uro-

of or relating to urine or the urinary organs

urogenital

vaso-, vas-

of or relating to vessels, esp. blood vessels

vasodilation

vermi-

relating to or like a worm

vermiform

-vorous, -vore

feeding on

carnivorous, omnivore

xeno-, xen-

relating to foreigners; other or different

xenophobia, xenograft

xero-, xer-

dry

xeroderma, xeriscaping

xylo-, xyl-

of or relating to wood

xylophagous, xylophone

zoo-

of animals; relating to animal life

zoogeography

zygo-

relating to joining or pairing

zygodactyl

 


See also:

Prefixes and suffixes
Commonly confused words

 

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